the works of art which are always on display in a gallery
a group of artworks shown together for a fixed period
stage/hold an exhibition
display a group of artworks to the public
a very popular exhibition of work by a well-known artist or artists
an event at which people can see an exhibition for the first time
a work of art that the gallery has bought recently
works of art
Most cities and large towns have a ____________that is funded by the government. Public galleries generally have a _________________ (which may be free) and also _____________ (which usually have an entrance fee). Large public galleries, such as the Tate Modern in London, ____________at least one _______________exhibition each year. If you are a member of the gallery, you may be invited to attend an __________. You might also hear about _________________ before anyone else.
As well as public galleries, there are commercial galleries at which the artworks are on sale. Especially in small towns, they tend to show ________ by local artists.
Categorising works of art
be difficult to clearly describe as one thing or another
medium (plural: media)
the material/technique used to create a work of art
materials/techniques that are modern and technological
the artist uses bodies, voices and/or movement to make the artwork
the idea is the most important thing about the artwork
the artist puts objects into an existing space, e.g. the room of a gallery
materials such as cotton, silk and wool
clay objects which are made hard by baking at high temperatures
creating images by preparing a block of (e.g.) wood, applying ink to it, then printing onto (e.g.) paper
Though lots of artists would like to believe their work ________________, in reality we tend to discuss art based on the _______________ used. Well-known categories of artwork include drawing, painting, sculpture and photography, but today all kinds of novel forms can be found both inside and outside of galleries. These include video and __________________ pieces; ______________ pieces; ___________ pieces; and ____________. Other popular media include _________, __________ and _____________, while works in ________________ combine different materials and techniques.
Special notes on drawing and painting
Drawing and painting are the oldest of the visual arts, so they have lots of specific vocabulary of their own.
Drawing is typically done in graphite (i.e. pencil), charcoal, pastel or ink. A quick drawing, especially one in which the artist tries to copy something in the real world, is known as a sketch; the art of sketching naked human models is called life drawing, while an artwork that shows a naked person is called a nude. Important skills for drawing include composition and perspective.
Paintings are commonly created with oil, watercolour or acrylic on a surface of paper or canvas. Traditional types of paintings include portrait, landscape and still life, though abstract works have also been popular since the 20th century.
the skill of arranging multiple elements in a pleasing way
thick, slow-drying paint that contains oil
thin, quick-drying paint that contains water
quick-drying paint that contains man-made ingredients
strong cloth that is used to make tents and boat sails
a picture of a group of objects, such as flowers or food
communicating with colour and shape instead of with realistic images
Working in the art world
As well as artists themselves, lots of different people keep the art world moving including agents, dealers and critics. Within a gallery setting, you might also expect to find a director who is in charge overall, curators, handlers and assistants (also called attendants).
someone who represents and promotes artists
someone who buys and sells works of art
someone who writes about art, especially reviews of exhibitions
someone who selects and presents artworks for exhibitions
someone who carefully packs and unpacks works of art
someone who greets visitors and answers questions
Discussing works of art
If you fancy yourself as a critic, there are certain words and phrases that occur frequently in writing and discussions about art. A selection of them is given below, but the best way to develop this kind of vocabulary is to read reviews and art books as often as you can.
Her work . . .
is moving – it is effective at making people feel sadness or sympathy
is evocative – it brings strong images or memories to mind
is visionary – it considers the future in an intelligent way
really spoke to me – it connected with my own life experiences
Their work . . .
is bold/delicate – it gives the impression of being physically strong/weak
is controversial – it divides public opinion
is Instagrammable – people love to take photos of and with it
is a bit out there – it is weird and/or hard to understand, but not necessarily in a bad way
His work . . .
is disturbing – it is likely to cause someone to be offended or upset
is derivative – it seems to copy existing works of art
is amateurish – it does not show a high level of skill
left me cold – I had no emotional or intellectual response to it
Yes, but is it art . . . ?
Painting and sculpture are obvious examples of fine arts – but what about other visual forms such as architecture, graphic design, video games and graffiti? Does it make sense to separate the fine and applied arts? Who decides the meaning of art, anyway?
activity that produces objects with no practical function
combining images and texts to make (e.g.) magazines and adverts
activity that produces functional objects whose appearance is also important, such as furniture or jewellery
What a load of rubbish
difficult for ordinary people to understand
trying to be more serious or important than it really is
a phrase that is used often and shows a lack of original thought
roll your eyes
move your eyeballs upwards or in a circle to show you think something is boring or annoying
Not everyone likes art, of course. Some people find modern art, in particular, inaccessible and pretentious. A number of clichés can often be heard in response to pieces of contemporary art – most of which would cause artists and art-lovers to roll their eyes.
My five-year-old could have done that! – it looks like a child made it
Look at the state of that! – it looks messy, as though no skill was needed to make it
Money for old rope! – there is nothing new, special or interesting about this
What a load of rubbish! – said in response to any art that the speaker does not like
people who dress and/or behave in a way that shows a strong interest in the arts
The art world is a strange place, but the surest way to fit in – apart from wearing all-black outfits and rings as big as your hands – is to practice speaking like the arty types hanging around galleries. So ciao for now, darling, and see you at tomorrow’s opening!